Abroad Series: Queenstown
This time last year, I just set off to explore the beautiful South Pacific. Where the heck has this year gone?? As these coming months are approaching, I’ve been beginning to reflect on my experiences throughout college. Having the opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji was most certainly the highlight! That being said, for each destination I will be sharing my favorite activities, the best places to eat and photos captured along the way (just in hopes that it will distract me from graduation creeping up). Just kidding. But not really.
“Adventure Capital of the world.” No doubt in my mind.
The wheels went up from the runway of Honolulu’s airport and it would be my first time venturing to the complete opposite side of our planet. Queenstown, New Zealand was our first stop of many throughout the South Pacific and WOW did it set the bar high. The memory of approaching Queenstown’s airport will forever be ingrained in my mind. I still remember my heart feeling as if it physically dropped while the plane weaved in and out of the jagged snowy mountains that seemed to go on to the end of the earth. It was everything I dreamed it would be and more. If you are an adventurous soul like myself, then this is a city you most definitely should put on your bucket list. It is called the adventure capital of the world after all! My study abroad group consisted of about 30 people, so we stayed at Pinewood Lodge, a backpacker hotel, for cheaper accommodations. If I were to go back one day (& could afford these places), I would love to stay at the Matakauri Lodge, Sofitel, or Eichardt’s Private Hotel. They all have a spectacular view of the lake!
Our first day in Queenstown we had a free morning, so my friend Sara and I stopped at a little café called Halo for breakfast after our morning run along lake Wakatipu. Queenstown’s biking and running trails were incredible! The city was actually a lot smaller than I initially thought, giving it a homey feel so far from actual home. There are a ton of delicious restaurants, cafes, and fun bars we explored during our week in Queenstown. Here are some that I would recommend:
• Halo Forbidden Bite, Joe’s Garage, Vudu Cafe, Bespoke Kitchen, Patagonia Chocolates (the best pops!)
• Fergburger (unspoken rule to try one of their burgers while visiting—veggie options too if you’re into that like myself!), Rata, Farelli’s Trattoria, and so many more that I wish I wrote down!
• 1876 (watched the Super Bowl here!), Perky’s Floating Bar, World Bar, Below Zero, Cowboys, The Winery
On the second day in Queenstown we were greeted by a Ben Lomand hike because nothing says curing jet lag like a 12-mile hike am I right? If you ever have the opportunity to visit Queenstown in the warmer months, hiking Ben Lomand is an absolute must do! It provides you with the most beautiful areal views of Queenstown’s surrounding landscape from an altitude of almost 6,000 ft. You have the option of taking a gondola up to the 1/4 mark of the mountain or hiking a narrow trail through the woods. I would recommend starting from the bottom and taking the narrow trail because it opens up about half way through to one of the most stunning views of the entire hike. This trail eventually brings you up to the Gondola drop off where we met up with the rest of our group. There’s a restaurant here called Stratosfare that my wallet would have probably shriveled up from, but nonetheless it looked amazing from the outside looking in. *Another excuse I must go back* …We went on our way after regrouping and I came to terms with the fact that my peanut butter and jelly sandwich would have to suffice. The hike to the top of Ben Lomand is about 12 miles which took our group around 6 hours (including a few stops for lectures). The summit of Ben Lomand actually gave me chills because I don’t think I had ever seen a prettier sight in my 21 years of living. I will let the pictures speak for themselves here.
During the end of our week in Queenstown, we had a free day where almost everyone in our group bungee jumped. Being that the Kuwaru Bridge was the first bungee jump platform ever invented, it was imperative to check it out. I honestly couldn’t tell you how it was because I think I blacked out from all the adrenaline right before I jumped. BUT you can purchase the videos and pictures after so that solved my problem! If I were to go back one day I would love to try out another bungee jump because there are so many to choose from! Besides that, there are endless adventure sports and activities to enjoy.
• Shootover Jet, Skydive Queenstown, Nevis Bungee (3x the height of mine), Off Road Adventures, Skyline Gondola & Luge
One of the most beautiful things about Queenstown, besides the snow-capped mountains and crystal blue water, are the people who take care of it and maintain it’s natural splendor. It seems that every business has the environment in mind by taking action on sustainability efforts. Even the tourism operators, who are often the ones exploiting the natural landscape for profit, are making a conscious effort to pour money back into preserving the environment. I took away more knowledge from visiting this beautiful town than I could have ever imagined and I hope it will continue to remain a place of raw beauty for unleashing the adventurous spirit within us all. Until next time Queenstown!